Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The Wicker Man
The Wicker Man is a cult 1973 British film directed by Robin Hardy , written by Anthony Shaffer and starring Edward Woodward (Sergeant Neil Howie), Christopher Lee (Lord Summerisle), Diane Cilento (Miss Rose), Ingrid Pitt (Librarian) and Britt Ekland (Willow). Cilento subsequently married Shaffer.
Sergeant Howie, of the West Highlands Constabulary, is sent an anonymous letter recommending that he investigate the disappearance of a young girl, Rowan Morrison, on the remote Hebridean island of Summerisle. He flies out to the island and during his investigations discovers that the entire population follow a neo-pagan religion under the island's owner Lord Summerisle, worshipping the sun and engaging in curious rituals.
Howie, a devout Christian who is also something of a prude, is increasingly shocked by the islanders' behaviour. He has no assistance from the islanders in his search for the girl but he persists in his investigation and uncovers evidence that he suspects shows that the girl was a victim of human sacrifice. Delving deeper into the island's culture, he disguises himself as Punch, the principal character of the spring fête, in an attempt to learn the details of the sacrificial death. But the islanders are not fooled, and at the end of the fête it is revealed that the girl is alive and unhurt: the letter was part of a ploy to bring Howie to the island in order for him to be the sacrifice.
As Howie is seized by the islanders, Lord Summerisle drolly notes that the sacrifice will be especially efficacious since Howie, who is engaged to be married, is a virgin. Howie is forced into the belly of a large hollow wicker statue of a man, which is set on fire. In the final shot of the film, the islanders surround the burning wicker man and sing the ancient English folk-song Sumer is icumen in while the terrified Howie shouts out Psalm 23 and implores divine vengeance on the island and its inhabitants.
The film was produced at a time of crisis in the British film industry. The studio in charge of production, 'British Lion films' was in financial trouble and was bought out by millionaire businessman John Bentley. In order to convince the unions that he wasn't about to asset-strip the company, Bentley needed to get a film into production quickly. This meant that The Wicker Man, a film set during mid-summer, was actually filmed in October (in order to look convincing, artificial leaves and blossom had to be glued to trees in many scenes). Christopher Lee was extremely keen to get the film made; he and others worked on the production without pay. By the time of the film’s completion the studio had been bought out by Michael Deeley . At a private screening, he described the film as one of the worst 10 films he'd ever seen. Cuts were made and a copy of the film was sent to American film producer Roger Corman in Hollywood to make a judgement of how to market the film in the USA. In Britain, the film was cut again and eventually released as part of a double bill. Lee claims that the cuts had butchered the continuity. Despite these problems the film met with critical acclaim and won first prize in the 1974 Festival of Fantastic Films in Paris. Sometime thereafter, the original negatives and the only print of the first cut of the film were 'lost'.
The two-disc edition of the DVD includes two versions. The film as it was originally released is an 87-minute cut. A partially restored version (which contains scenes recovered from a videotape of the version sent to Roger Corman) runs 99 minutes.
- Skye: Opening aerial shots
- Plockton: Initial landing and walking along harbour front
- Kirkcudbright: Most of the houses on Summerisle
- Culzean Castle: Lord Summerisle's castle
- Dumfries and Galloway: Most other location shots
Brown, Allan (2000). Inside The Wicker Man: The Morbid Ingenuities. London: Macmillan. ISBN 0-283-06355-6.
- IMDb Entry for The Wicker Man
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